DENVER - Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney told a campaign rally crowd of thousands in this swing state Monday that he is looking forward to the upcoming debates with President Obama, calling them, "an opportunity to describe the pathway forward each of us would chose" for America.

Romney arrived in Denver late Monday, appearing at an aircraft museum to pick up an endorsement by Denver Broncos legend John Elway and to deliver a 20 minute campaign speech before heading into two days of intensive preparation for his first debate with Obama Wednesday.

"It will be like a conversation with the American people and we will get to describe our views," Romney told the crowd.

Obama stopped campaigning on Sunday night and is secluded at a lakeside resort in Nevada, another swing state, cramming for his own debate performance.

Romney told the crowd he is aware of the high expectations for the first of three presidential debates.

"Everybody wants to know who is going to win, who is going to score the punches," Romney said. "It's not so much winning and losing or even the people themselves, myself or the president. It's something bigger than that."

Romney backers, however, said their candidate could afford to throw a few punches to combat his image as a somewhat detached and impersonal candidate.

"I hope he digs deep within himself to show his passion," Sally Johnson, a Denver retiree, told The Washington Examiner. "He holds his emotions in. He needs to show them."

Romney aides said Monday that the Republican nominee would focus in the next few weeks on winning over the so-called "soft" voters, those who may have picked a candidate but are not fully committed and can be convinced to change their minds.

Those are the very voters pollsters say can be won over with a breakout debate performance, but the Romney aides said they are looking beyond just the debates to attract this part of the electorate, who, even though they represent only a few percentage points in the polls, could be decisive in a close race.

Romney incorporated the new strategy in his last pre-debate appearance Monday, telling the Denver crowd, "go out there and find one person who voted for Barack Obama, or maybe three or four or five, and convince them to join our team."

There is good reason for the Romney camp to be seeking ambiguous voters as polls show the race tightening, with the two candidates statistically tied.

While Romney is hunkered down in Denver, his campaign team will keep rolling. His wife, Ann Romney, will hold a rally on Tuesday near Denver, while vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan continues on a bus tour across Iowa, another swing state.